The United States will issue $168.7 million of security assistance to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 2021 through the newly created Baltic Security Initiative, which highlights the security concerns of the Baltic region in U.S. lawmaking.
"The decision by the U.S. Congress demonstrates that our strongest ally is committed to the defense of our region and understands the security challenges here. We highly value this decision and are ready to continue strengthening our defense cooperation with the U.S.," Estonian Defense Minister Jüri Luik (Isamaa) said. This is the first time the assistance has been issued through the Baltic Security Initiative.
"The decision by the U.S. Congress confirms that the United States sees Estonia and the Baltic states as trustworthy allies, who take their commitment to defense seriously by continuously investing into their own national defense capabilities and by contributing to operations overseas with allies," Luik added.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said the decision by the U.S. Congress and the addition of the Baltic Security Initiative in the defense appropriations bill is noteworthy.
"This shows the positive and tangible outcome of the long-term special bond between Estonia and the U.S. To achieve this, our embassy in Washington has been working tirelessly to ensure that the Baltic countries have a place in the annual U.S. defense activities," Reinsalu added.
The United States has provided security assistance to the Baltic countries before, yet the decision by the U.S. Congress to approve the initiative proposed in the spring of 2020 by the Baltic countries will greatly strengthen cooperation in developing new capabilities together.
The U.S. Congress' decision directs the secretary of defense together with the secretary of state to submit a multi-year strategy and spending plan to outline the goals, objectives and milestones for the initiative, including in air defense, maritime situational awareness, ammunition, special forces, C4ISR and the benefits of such programs for deterrence.
The newly adopted Baltic Security Initiative demonstrates the United States' long-term commitment to support the Baltic countries in developing their national defense capabilities. Earlier U.S. security assistance has enabled Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to meet many of their military infrastructure and capability development goals ahead of schedule.
In addition to the U.S. security assistance, this year there has seen a significantly larger presence of U.S. forces in the Baltic region. Over the course of 2020, multiple joint exercises with the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Cyber Commands have strengthened the defense cooperation between the U.S. and Estonia even further.
Editor: Helen Wright